Tag Archives: Used Phones

Things to consider when buying an USED phone


With the luxury of provider subscribed phones being a rarity in markets like Sri Lanka, many power users will opt to purchase used phones due to the hefty pricing for brand new phones by the official suppliers and even by smaller retailers.

However buying used phones, the buyer carries a few more risks mainly,

  1. The phone could be stolen phone
  2. The phone could be a locked phone
  3. The phone could have some serious technical or software problem
  4. The phone may not be what it supposed to be!
  5. The phone can be a fake

However some of these may also apply for new phones!, since smaller retailers who sell “NEW” phones are well known for selling used phones which have “repackaged” to look new.  Hence the only way once can be truly safe is to buy new, but seriously take this example,

New price of a Galaxy S3 is 95K, and yet in one year the phone can only be resold for around 50,000 at best.  You can buy a near new used S3 for around 55-60K right now, and you can still use and enjoy all the goodies and only loose out on 10K, that to me makes a lot more sense.

So how you prepare yourself to ensure you can minimize the danger of buying a lemon when buying an used phone.

Here are some best practices that may apply, if you have any more please comment 🙂

Only buy a phone that is COMPLETE and includes the original box

  1. Never buy a phone if the phone does not have the original box.  The IMEI no of the phone and the IMEI no in the box must match.
  2. Make sure the model no in the box and the phone match
  3. Make sure the color indicated in the box and the color of the phone match

If the phone does not have a box, the possibility of the phone being a stolen phone is very high.  With the growing collaboration between telcos of blacklisting stolen phones, and telcos hungry to sell phones to clients than have them use cheaper used phones, getting such a phone may only be useful as having a music player if its blacklisted.

The problem more than the black listed is if the phone had been stolen and reported to the police.  The police now can easily work with telco to track the phone when it gets used, and by law regardless of the paperwork you have, you the buyer will be deprived of the phone (= your money), and spend time at the cop house, along with other issues.

So if a guy says he brought it without a box to avoid taxes, etc, you have to decide if the price reduction is worth the risk. Also note that if you buy an incomplete phone (with no box) , selling it later can also be a problem, so my best advice, avoid buying without the box.

If the phone has a different color, or model no, it means it either has been repaired, customized or running a custom firmware, all danger signs.

Avoid buying phones which have the logos of big telcos on the phone or start up screen

In most countries such as US, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Korea, etc phones are part of the package, so you don’t pay for the phone much but you get “lured’” into it buy paying sizeable monthly charges for call and data use. However the problem is that these phones provided are locked to a telco (e.g. AT&T, Sprint, etc), and if you put another SIM this phone will not work.

Ingenious sellers and even small retailers work around this buy replacing the firmware of these phones with global/international versions which in many cases make these phones unlocked.

HOWEVER there are situations where when you run an update, the update service of the phone manufacturer detects your IMEI and updates it with the new correct firmware, effectively locking your phone once again.

Apple users in particular have to be vary of locked phones, as many sellers will sell phones with different approaches that make the phone work now, but the very next update will lock the phone.

Do some research and see what firmware versions come on the phone

With phone manufacturers specially for Android not wanting to upgrade phones to the latest Android versions mainly to make you buy a new phone, rather than because your current phone hardware is incapable of running the new versions, the customized ROM/firmware market has become big business.  XDAdeveloper, CyanogenMod are popular places for such ROMs.

However these custom ROMs may work out well for many techie users, but for the normal smartphone users, the quirks and dangerous of using a custom ROM has its complications.  Custom ROMs also have a tendency to make your phone go faster by speeding up the processor and graphics more than the standard (called overclocking), or by using tweaked software, the side effect of this is that the phone can be running a lot hotter and can reduce the lifetime of the phone and battery by a great margin.

Avoid buying “GREAT DEALS”, as these can be fake

The growing high quality clones are another scare.  Earlier a fake just looked like the original but did not behave, but thanks to the Android platform, Chinese clones now look physically like the original and also feature the software that are near identical.

One of the biggest fakes going around is the Samsung S3 Vietnam version, supposedly with 8GB and only support VGA recording! However the phone is identical in looks and in software for most non-techie users, until they find that they are running a pretty low end smart phone that has been designed to mimic Samsung’s flagship!

Make sure the important accessories are included

Some phones are expensive not just for the phone but for the accessories, E.g. HTC headsets from Beats Audio.  So make sure you are not being suckered of by accessories.

Accessories include the original USB cable (clones don’t last long, original cables are super quality), original charger, spare memory card, headset, etc.

More to come 🙂

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Dangers of buying used phones originating from the US and Korean market


Apple selling their phones only in a limited set of countries, made the concept of people buying phones from the US market and unlocking them if possible as the only way to get an Apple IPhone.

The trend for Android has been phones from providers such as T-Mobile, AT&T being brought and then being unlocked.  Similarly phones from from Korea has been another major intake in Sri Lanka due to the high number of people going to work there.  Here you find telco’s such as SK and KT telecom.

Many purchase this phones as they are either,

  1. Significantly cheaper than buying an international or local used version of the same phone
  2. Offer a higher configuration than the international or local variant of the same phone
  3. Availability of more models than local model range

The cheaper issue is definitely not the danger, but more so the different in configuration.

Common differences in US/Korean telco phones compared to international or local variants

  1. Very different processor, a key reason being that the LTE versions tend to have a different chipset, mainly due to the reason that the normal units powered by Tegra based processors do not support a LTE modem (Most popular the international S3 had a very powerful Samsung Exynos processor and MALI400MP GPU, the LTE version a much less capable Qualcomm unit coupled to an Adreno GPU.  Most users misunderstood that the higher clocked 1.5Ghz Qualcomm unit was in fact slower than the 1.2Ghz Samsung Exynos)
  2. Larger screen sizes (a popular upgrade in the US market phones, many Galaxy S1 and S2 variants had larger 4.5″ screens, and in some cases 1280×720 screens when the international units were having 800×480 screens)
  3. Large internal configurations (the most well known is the US variant S3 has 2GB RAM, while the international variant only has 1GB, the higher configuration possibly to combat the Apple threat than any other reason)

Problems that users may face when buying such used phones

Regardless of the phone being unlocked there are problems.

  1. Cannot replace the firmware with the international or local firmware version: You will NOT be able flash the phone with the international firmware since the hardware is different.  Even if you do, there are problems that come because of the differences in hardware
  2. Updates can be much slower or not available: Hence unlocked or not you have to wait until the updates are provided for the telco to get your phone updated.  However these devices are still custom made by the manufacture for the specific telco, and will be bundled with customizations requested by the telco including custom applications and updates are going to be much slower than the international version, and in some cases the updates stop (e.g. Many US phones for Android never got updated beyond Android Froyo or Gingerbread while international versions in some cases got ICS or updated variants of Gingerbread featuring newer core apps and tweaked performance, Motorola phones are the biggest offenders here).
  3. Slower performance, and less available memory: Another common issue is the customization done on behalf of the telco’s in many cases slowed down the phone due to bloatware running and many of these apps could not be easily removed unless the phone is rooted, something most users may not end up doing.
  4. Problems using 3G/4G data: Another little understood change is that the 3G and HSDPA network support may differ, as most phones are not true quad-band when sold to specific markets, hence they may work but not as efficiently and reliably as the local or international variants.
  5. Highly used batteries and internal components: Users in these markets would have used these phones WIFI on always, and this would mean the batteries would have had may of their usable recycle times completed, and the internal components having a lot more wear than local phones where WIFI and 3G being fully on is not very common.  while the phone externally will look great, the internals can be in a bad shape, expect higher maintenance costs or failure in units.

So when buying an used phone, check the model carefully.  Check what is different from the international and local variants and see if you are okay with the changes, and understand that the phone may not work properly.

One important check is also to see if the phone model code printed behind the phone and the code in the phone are same.  If they differ, it means the phone has been upgraded by maybe international version, but these phones are sure to give problems.

So sometimes a few bucks more for an used International or local variant may make a lot more sense 🙂